Body or Soul? Mathew 5:29-30
May 30th, 2021

29 Now if your right eye is causing you to sin, tear it out and throw it away from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand is causing you to sin, cut it off and throw it away from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.
Last week, we heard Jesus continue His teaching, this time illustrating how the sin of lust harms interpersonal relationships.  We learned that from Jesus’ point of view that once we get to the point of looking with lust, we’re already sinning, and it can only get worse from there.  Just how seriously does God take this type of sin, and what are we to do about it?

Jesus words speak primarily about 2 things: priorities and mortification.

When they thought about Jesus’ words, they would have realized that getting rid of their right eye, first off would mean that they would just be lusting after women with their left eye instead.  It would have made them realize that the problem wasn’t with their eyes, it was in their hearts.  It was not a problem outside of themselves, with the things that they were perceiving, but a problem inside with their sinful human nature—and that’s the point that Jesus is trying to make to them. 

Priorities

Jesus affirms that your right eye is valuable—God made it, of course it is.  But He is saying that there is something that you have that is more valuable—your soul.  He’s saying that even as gross as plucking out your own eyeball is, and you would never do that because your eye is so valuable to you, then consider the damage that you are doing to your soul by sinning.  Jesus affirms that, if you could get rid of the lusts of the eye by plucking out your eye, then it would be a good trade.  This clearly illustrates the horrible nature of sin.  Romans 6:23 that 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gracious gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.   Plucking out your own eye won’t kill you, but sin eventually will.  The world will tell you to do whatever you can to get the most for yourself, and hold onto it with a death grip until you die.  But Jesus stresses the importance of the eternal over the importance of our physical life here on earth.  As 1 John 5:13 says The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.  God’s perspective is an eternal one.  Psalm 90:4 tells us For a thousand years in Your sight Are like yesterday when it passes by, Or like a watch in the night.  We need to get God’s perspective, and understand that this life is just a prelude, a preparation time for the next life. 

Mortification

Our flesh is always going to want to go after wickedness, but we must recognize this deceitful heart that we have and refuse to indulge it’s desires.  This is what Jesus is getting at when He says it’s better to pluck out our own eye, so we don’t end up in hell.  2 Timothy 2:19 reminds us that “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to keep away from wickedness.”  And Paul continues his advice to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:21-22 saying 21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be an implement for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. 22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.  And how do we do this?  How do we cleanse ourselves from wickedness as believers?  We mortify the flesh.  We refuse to let it carry out it’s evil desires.  We follow Jesus’ command to Jesus Matthew 16:24-26 24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25 “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? 

30 And if your right hand is causing you to sin, cut it off and throw it away from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.

The right side is the place of special skill, blessing or honor.  When Israel was exiled to Babylon, away from the promised land, away from Israel and Jerusalem, they wept and sang in Psalm 137:5-6 If I forget you, Jerusalem, May my right hand forget its skill.  Their population worked mostly with their hands, so they depended on their skill to make a living.  And so, Jesus is also urging people not to sin in what they do, after he has emphasized that they should not sin in what they see. 

Whatever we give away to God, whatever we let Him have of our lives is that we get to keep eternally.  Unless we have our priorities straight, and understand the importance of the eternal and the spiritual over the physical and temporary, we are never going to be able to mortify the flesh. 





Lust of the Eye
May 23rd, 2021

Mathew 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

You have heard that it was said

Jesus is going to correct and clarify the teachings of the Pharisees.  Jesus’ interpretation is going to uphold exactly what God had said, not changing the law, but clarifying it for his disciples.  Jesus clearly teaches that both genders are to remain faithful to marriage vows.  Jesus is using this particular example in the context of broken relationships. Just as Jesus began teaching against breaking of interpersonal relationships due to anger using the most extreme example of murder in verse 21, He begins teaching against lust by using the most extreme example of murdering a marriage relationship through the sin of adultery. 

28 but I say to you

Jesus is going to emphasize again that sin begins with a wrong choice inside before there is ever an action outside.  

that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her

Jesus tells us that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  Now, at first it looks like Jesus is setting up a new, more stringent moral standard regarding lust, but remember that Jesus did not come to abolish the law, or change it, but to fulfill it.  When Job seeks to assert his integrity before God, In Job  31, he begins in verse 1 with saying “I have made a covenant with my eyes;  How then could I look at a virgin?  Now Job likely lived sometime between Noah and Abraham, and yet, long before the law was given by Moses, he knew that it was sin to look at a young woman with lust.

everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her

look.

Job made a covenant with his eyes not to look upon a young, unmarried girl with lust.  This sin tends to start with looking.  Jesus emphasizes that it is the eye gateway to the heart or soul where this particular sin tends to enter.  In Matthew 6:22, Jesus asserts that the eye is the lamp of the body. “If your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.” Things you see easily reach your heart and soul, so, as the children’s song says: “be careful little eyes what you see”. 

As Martin Luther said “You can’t stop a bird from flying overhead, but you can keep it from building a nest in your hair.”  In other words, you cannot always help what is presented before your eyes, but you can help whether or not you dwell on and fantasize about what you’ve seen.  Let’s just say that not much good happens for Christians late at night on the internet, as a general rule.  Avoid temptation, and especially temptation that you have caved in to in the past.  Psalm 101:3 says I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.  

Lust

Just the seeing alone is not the problem.  It’s allowing oneself to be lured and enticed and desiring sin that’s the problem.  James 1:14-15 says But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.  The etymology of the word lust in Greek is “to be hot after something.” In this context, lust is any sinful desire that is contrary to the will of God.  Proverbs 4:23 Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.

When John encourages us not to love sinful things in the world in 1st John 16, he lists 3 primary categories saying:  16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.  The second phrase, “lust of the eyes,” means we desire what we see.

So, if, as Jesus says in Matthew 6:22 the eye is the lamp of the body. Our eyes can lead our heart into sin.  The Psalmist says of the arrogant in Psalm 73:7, “Their eye bulges from fatness; the imaginations of their heart run riot.”  The “lust of the eyes” describes someone who is mesmerized, or captivated by an outward show, desiring someone that God has forbidden us to have.  And the inordinate desire to have anything contrary to God’s will is sinful. 

has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

In fact, Jesus says that once we get to the point of looking with lust, we’re already sinning, and it can only get worse from there.  Is this as bad as committing the physical act of adultery?  No, but it is on the same path, and it is sin. 

So, how do we keep the bird from building a nest in our hair?

Well, I think one thing that we can do is put up defenses.  Take a stand to not put yourself in tempting situations. 

And if we come across temptation, then our next line of defense is to stop the evil thought in its tracks.  1st Corinthians 10:5  5 We are destroying arguments and all arrogance raised against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.  The moment the enemy or the world around us starts with his old lie “did God really say”, then we claim the Word of God and destroy the false argument.  Then we take that thought captive, recognizing it for the bad actor that it is, and refuse to let us influence us.

We cannot always prevent a negative thought from entering our mind, but we do have the ability to prevent that thought from taking root—and the Word of God helps us do this.  And we leave no room for these thoughts by remembering what Paul told us in Philippians 4:8 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Continually dwell on these things.  Changing the focus of our thoughts toward these things will make the attacks of the enemy and of the world around us more easy to recognize by contrast—it will look and feel wrong.  And our perspective will be more in line with the way Jesus wants us to live. 

But in order to accomplish this transformation of our thought life that the Holy Spirit wants to bring about, it takes some discipline: eye-discipline and thought discipline, and some determination to live the inner thought life the way that God wants us to.  This is how we defeat the enemy in spiritual warfare—with standing on the Word of God in obedience to what Jesus has told us.  That is how we overcome, because He has already overcome the world.





Reconcile While There is Time Matthew 5:25-26
May 16th, 2021

 25Come to good terms with your accuser quickly, while you are with him on the way to court, so that your accuser will not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you will not be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last quadrans.

 25Come to good terms with your accuser quickly

Now, for Jesus to urge us to come to good terms with someone, what must the relationship be like in the first place between us?  It must be on bad terms.  And Jesus is telling us that it is up to us to repair the relationship.  Jesus says to do this quickly.  Being angry isn’t sin, it’s a feeling.  It’s our actions, because we are angry (and even our evil thoughts and words toward those who have angered us) that are the problem.  Jesus urges us to resolve our anger quickly, rather than let it become resentment

Sin often harms another person, but, ultimately, all sin is against God. David said something similar after he had sinned with Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11. When confronted with his sin, David repented in great sorrow, saying to God, “Against You and You only have I sinned” in Psalm 51:4. He had clearly sinned against Bathsheba and her husband, too, but it was the violation of God’s law that grieved David the most. Sinning against someone incurs a debt to God that we have no way to repay.  Of course Jesus paid for our sins, past, present and future on the cross, but since sin so often hurts others around us, Jesus commands us to make things right with them.  We do not want people to have a just cause against us in order to cry out against us to our just God! 

while you are with him on the way to court,

And so Jesus says that if someone accuses us, and wants to take us to court, we should find a way to reconcile, to come back to good terms with them.  The type of injury isn’t the point—the broken relationship that hasn’t been reconciled is the point.  Today’s verses are about what happens when we refuse to obey God, and reconcile.  And the first, is that we may get sued, and brought before the court.  The walk to court presented a “window of opportunity” to make friends and resolve differences.  Jesus is emphasizing that settling the matter then, will be less costly than letting the matter go to court. 

Jesus considers the reconciliation so important, and the opportunity to show a difference between Christians and the world so important that He tells us later in Mathew 5:40  40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak also.  It’s your witness and your ministry of reconciliation that are important, not the tunic or cloak.  Paul shames the Corinthians for not being able to resolve conflicts between Christians within the church in 1 Cor 6:1-8.  Basically, Paul is saying that when believers air their dirty laundry in public, and display differences and conflict within the church publicly, they give the church and Jesus Christ a bad name.  If Christians fail to resolve problems on the individual level, or with the help of the church, they have already lost before they even bring it to court.  The loss in terms of their witness and the witness of Christ to the world is far more costly than anything that they may gain by the lawsuit

When we’re the ones who have wronged someone

Paul urges us to make sure that we’re not the ones doing the wronging or defrauding!  If we have done this, it is our responsibility to repay.  We serve a Just God a Righteous God.   When Zaccheus, the rich tax collector was called by Jesus, he knew that his past sinful life of extortion and defrauding people was standing in the way of a closer relationship with God.  So we read in Luke 19:8 But Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I am giving to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone, I am giving back four times as much.” And what was Jesus’ reaction?  9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham.  Jesus forgave his sins.  True conversion should be accompanied by the desire to make things right with those we have wronged, and especially with our brothers and sisters in Christ whom we have injured. 

And so, we see a principal that is found throughout the Bible:  True understanding and repentance of our sin against God, and His forgiveness of us made possible accepting Jesus’ atoning death on the cross both reconciles us to Him and results in the desire and ability to both forgive those who have wronged us, and to reconcile our relationship with those we have wronged.

But what if we refuse to do all of this, refuse to repent of our sin, refuse to reconcile with our brother or sister, or make things right?

so that your accuser will not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you will not be thrown into prison. 

Once the legal system is involved, and the wheels of our legal system begin moving, there is no telling where it will lead, and there can be some severe consequences. 

26 Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last quadrans.

A quadrans was 1/64th of a standard minimum daily wages (a denarius), and that and the mite were the smallest coin in first-century currency.  And the stakes are much higher than having to pay back a debt, whether emotional or monetary.  The emphasis is on us making the decision to obey God, and the horrible consequences of disobedience.  Don’t fear that someone might reject your apology when you attempt to reconcile.  Don’t fear that they may slam the door in your face, or hang up on you.  Instead, fear the One that your going to have to stand before and explain your actions, or your failure to obey and reconcile.  

But what happens when a believer chooses to disobey.  Where in the Bible can we look for an example?  Just what happened when David sinned and instead of reconciling, chose to try to cover it up?  David’s sin was compounded by deception, manipulation, dragging other people into the plot, and in the end, murdering Uriah.  And God made sure that David did not get away with it. (2 Samuel 11:9-14).  David was forgiven, but we still see horrible consequences of his trying to cover up his sin.  David was at war from that day on until he died.  He was at war with his own son Absalom, whom he loved.  God caused David’s sin to be known throughout the whole kingdom and the consequences to affect the entire nation of Israel for many years.  And it ended up costing David 2 sons—the baby and Absalom. Do not let your refusal to reconcile get to this point.  Repent and reconcile today.  We must take action immediately to make amends, to take the initiative to apologize for the grievance that we have caused through our unkind deed, word, look, or thought by which we have hurt someone.  And, as Paul reminds us in Romans 12:17-18 17 Never repay evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all people. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all people.